Tonight’s feature: Midnight in Paris
I felt, for a minute there, while I was doing it, like I was immortal.
Confession: I have become, to my own disappointment and horror, a profoundly cynical person. I’m constantly fighting it but not always winning. So it was a surprise to have a Woody Allen movie, of all things, spark a memory of the romantic vision I once had of Paris and writers and the existence of a “golden age” in Western art, and to spark it in such a way that it felt, well…good.
Midnight in Paris manages, amazingly, to show the folly in the destructive and blinkered fetish of nostalgia without being cynical, without mocking or poisoning our rose-colored view of the past. It allows us to delight in the Lost Generation’s Left Bank, the can-can girls of the Moulin Rouge, the company of Toulouse-Latrec and Gaugin and Degas, in full knowledge that while we may have liked to visit, we wouldn’t really have wanted to have lived then.
Still, Gil’s romanticism, though the butt of jokes by characters we are never meant to identify with, is never rejected by the film itself. Allen pulls off the tremendous feat of showing us that Gil’s passion is misguided but at the same time emotionally correct. It’s OK to love something - a city, a person, a book - you don’t understand, as long as you try to see it clearly and love it with your whole heart.
As Hemingway says in the film: “I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving, or not loving well, which is the same thing.” Cynicism is death. Loving, and loving well, is the only point to life.